Wednesday, June 22, 2016

When Italy Gives You Lemons, Make Limoncello

Amalfi Coast, Italy

I had always heard that the Amalfi Coast and Capri was famous for limoncello, but I never understood how large a part citrus plays in the lives of the people that live there.  It was actually when visiting the ruins of Pompeii, that I saw the first of many lemons that were larger than my head! The large lemons are typically more for show and have a larger rind.  The locals sometimes cut up the lemons and put them on their salads because they are sweeter than a normal lemon.  There are two main types of lemons grown on the Sorrento Peninsula, the Sfusato Amalfitano and the Limone di Sorrento.  The Sfusato Amalfitano are smaller and they have an elongated and pointed shape.  The Limone di Sorrento on the other hand are rounder in shape.  Both are very aromatic and have high levels of Vitamin C.  While in Pompeii, I had a cup of amazingly fresh orange juice that had both orange and lemon juice in it!  You smell the lemon as soon as you walked up to the stand. 

There is even an I.G.P. (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) logo that you can find printed on some of the limoncello and lemon products in the area that is an official acknowledgement that the lemons used were grown in the area and in compliance with the rules of production that have been set.  While taking a tour of the Villa Cimbrone, there was an outcropping with a beautiful view of the hillsides of the Amalfi Coast and there was a lot of crops planted on the slanting hills.  Some of them had a black or green net covering the field.  This net was for the lemons; the farmers typically cover the lemons to protect them from hail and wind.  After noticing the nets for the first time on that villa, I started to notice them everywhere on the Amalfi Coast!  This rocky terrain of Sorrento and the surrounding areas is perfect because the lemons thrive in the temperate climate and volcanic soil that is rich in minerals.

Harvesting of the lemons happens typically three times a year, and is still done by hand.  The harvesters must compete with the extremely steep ancient stone steps and carry the lemons by hand to the nearest road, which can sometimes be pretty far away.  With my experience with the hills in Castiglion Fiorentino, the stairs in Ravello and Amalfi to harvest the lemons are not something I would want to take on.  This causes the lemons and their products to be a little bit more expensive, simply because of the labor that must go into harvesting them.

Lemons play a huge role in the lives of the locals in the Amalfi Coast as well as the tourism industry there.  Lemons are used for food, drink, and beauty products.  One night while we were in Sorrento, we had a nice dinner right on the water and for dessert they served us delizia, a fluffy cake with a lemon whipped cream in the middle.  When I come back to the U.S. I am going to miss all the fresh and zesty citrus that the Amalfi Coast boasts.

-Hannah D.

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